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Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I thought I was going to die. I said goodbye to my dogs and my husband because some part of me was positive I would not wake up in the morning. Well. I did wake up. Some days, I wish I wouldn’t.

This is antidepressant withdrawal.

11069934_10153230902806318_6880259713043043209_nI’ve suffered from depression all my adult life. It moves as the tide; it ebbs and flows, just like my use of medication, most often, SSRIs like Celexa, Paxil or Wellbutrin. I’ve been on some variety of SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) for the past year. Two weeks ago, I decided to switch medication again, but first, I wanted a clean slate. I wanted to cleanse my system of all drugs, just for a little while, and see how I felt.

My mistake.

I’ve been told antidepressant withdrawal is a lot like giving up heroin. Mental symptoms include paranoia, anxiety, fear and despair. Physical symptoms include extreme nausea, dizziness, headaches, brain zaps (you feel like your brain is being electrocuted), fatigue and night terrors.

In the past week, I’ve dreamt that I murdered one of my dogs; that my grandparents (both dead) were still walking around as rotting corpses in their old house; and that my college friend refused a date with Bill Skarsgard. The last one wasn’t too traumatic, but you get the idea.

The weeping worries me. I cried over a commercial yesterday. I cried over bad sentence structure. I cried because I couldn’t bring myself to wash a plate, brush my hair, pick a sock up off the floor …

I think I’m going crazy. And that is the scariest part of withdrawal: I’ve lost any semblance of the sanity I once had.

Read more at SheKnows.com.

john_and_sherlock_by_br0_harry-d4onnvg

You thought my husband was cruel. He said horrible things to you—biting, personal things. He brought out your worst and made you monstrous. You hated him for it, and for his brilliance, his need for blood and murder and work (always the work) with no pay because he didn’t need the money.

You hated him for that, too, his bottomless bank account and the way he wore expensive clothes and that coat. The damn coat. The way he walked with purpose, or rather strutted. You hated my husband because you didn’t know him, not at all. No one did. But me.

I didn’t always. I once called him a machine, before he died and came back, before my divorce from Mary and before Moriarty almost took him away a second time.

That was when it began, when Sherlock Holmes began to show himself to me, and he didn’t mean to. It was all an accident, the way we really got to know each other—the way I got to know myself.

I was beginning to feel my age by then. My war injuries ached when the weather was bad and the weather was often bad in London. I carried lines around my eyes that hadn’t been there when we first met, not when I first set eyes on him in the St. Bart’s laboratory and had no idea my life was about to change forever.

Or maybe I did. How could I not? I was drawn to him as soon as he spoke. Magnetized. I trusted him, God knew why. I killed for him, to protect him. I only realized later that was what we did for each other, always: we protected each other.

John Watson and Sherlock Holmes.

The jokes about us being a couple stopped when I turned fifty and Sherlock, damn him, still looked twenty-five. On the night I began to know the real Sherlock Holmes (and the real John Watson), we were simply confirmed bachelors who solved cases together and lived in the same flat: 221B Baker Street.

It had been days without a case, wherein which I found time to catch up on reading and trash telly.

For a while, Sherlock bemoaned his state of boredom. He flapped around like a limp fish on the couch and sighed dramatically until I turned up the volume to ignore the muffled obscenities he’d picked up at The Yard. He obsessively checked his cellular, but Lestrade, who refused to retire, had nothing to offer.

As the days stretched into a week, we settled into our natural rhythm. I took a few shifts at hospital and tried to make Sherlock eat. Always a battle. I stayed out late one night, consuming perhaps a pint too many with Stamford for old time’s sake and came home to a silent flat.

“Sherlock?”

I wobbled a bit on my feet as I locked the front door behind me. Yes, definitely one pint too many.

“Sherlock? Are you home?”

I wondered if he’d been called onto a case. I was used to him running off without me, although I never liked it. Never.

I searched through a few cupboards for chips, thankful to find no fingers or heads. Some things never changed.

Of course I found nothing to eat. I considered a cup of tea, but as I moved to put the kettle on, I noticed Sherlock’s bedroom door was open. The dim light on his bedside table threw shadows on the hall floor.

“Sherlock?”

I took a few heavy steps toward his door and, well, was shocked to find him … asleep? The door creaked as I looked inside, but he didn’t move so I stood and watched. No matter how many times I’d caught him snoozing at the microscope or taking short blinks in the back of cabs, I still found it strangely miraculous to see the great Sherlock Holmes actually taking a proper rest.

His back was turned to me, but his still shaggy curls stuck up like thick ferns sprouted beneath the soil of a moonlit forest floor. One of his long-fingered hands clutched to the blanket that covered him. I saw one pointed edge of a pale cheekbone. Then, I backed away, tried to leave before he woke. He always woke when I watched him sleep, like he could feel me in his dreams.

Then he whimpered and I froze. He whimpered again, mouthed incoherent words. His fingers closed tightly to the blanket above him. He said, “No, stop, don’t …”

Intellect does not dissuade nightmares.

I moved to the bed and put one hand on his shoulder. “Sherlock.” I said his name again, louder. And again.

He sat up suddenly. “John.”

“Sherlock. You all right, mate?”

“Of course.” He pushed out of bed and past me. I listened to his bare feet patter into the bathroom. The door closed behind him.

When I reached down to touch his mattress, I found it soaked with sweat.

I returned to the kitchen. After over fifteen years of friendship, one learned not to ask questions of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. But just as I put the kettle back on the stove, his voice poured over my shoulder.

“I need you to stay with me tonight,” he said.

Read the rest at Archive of Our Own.

(Be warned. One reviewer said, “You made me cry a river.”)

Image credit: br0-Harry at DeviantArt

Contact

We’re always grieving something: a person, a place, a different time … a different us.

Last Wednesday, New York actress Hannah Seusy performed my piece, THE WAY WE FORGET, at famed literary locale KGB Bar thanks to Liars’ League NYC.

From their website:

“Liars’ League NYC is a live literary journal featuring professionally trained actors reading original short stories by both emerging and well-established writers. Selected stories are published on our website, performed in front of a live audience at New York’s celebrated KGB Bar every other month, and podcast.

“Our aim is simple: to bring the very best new fiction to life in front of what we think is one the most discerning literary audiences in the world.”

Each of the Liars’ League events is themed. THE WAY WE FORGET was chosen by Liars’ League for their “Kiss & Breakup” series. They have live performance literary magazines in London and Hong Kong, too, and they’re always open for submissions.

THE WAY WE FORGET was written on a flight back to Ohio after my grandfather’s death in 2013. Many thanks to the talented Hannah Seusy for her performance and to Liars’ League NYC for putting things together.

THE WAY WE FORGET (Excerpt)

Written by Sara Dobie Bauer

Performed by Hannah Seusy

Presented by Liars’ League NYC

“Do you remember your dad?”

“No,” he says. His discarded cigarette glows orange on the pavement. “I was only five.”

“I know.” I pause. “I was there.” I look at the Jack-o-Lantern across the street—its darkened, gaping wounds. “How long before we start to forget, do you think? The way people smell. How their skin feels.”

He watches a car go by, filled with kids. I hear Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and hope they’re going to a haunted house where they can scream at people pretending to be dead.

Ethan says, “We remember the things we choose to remember.”

I still smell his Polo Sport cologne, mixed with smoke and the whiskey on my breath, and I remember when he drove us all to the last football game of our senior year.

“You won’t forget him,” he says.

Makes me wonder. I can keep a bottle of Dad’s cologne. I can keep some of his Michigan Wolverine sweatshirts. I can drink Molson Canadian every night like Dad. But a person is a person; a memory is a memory, and memories have a knack for confusion.

To hear Hannah read THE WAY WE FORGET in its entirety at Liars’ League NYC, head to http://www.liarsleaguenyc.com/the-way-we-forget. Something weird? She sounds a lot like me.

1424754331088

Walnut-Street

I hadn’t intended to write about my grandparents’ house on Walnut Street. Not really. Not until I found out it was being sold and then wandered from room to room, documenting every damn thing that happened there.

A couple friends read my lengthy non-fiction essay. They cried and told me it was beautiful. When I told those few readers “You Were Here” was being published by Under the Gum Tree, they seemed surprised. One woman said, “But it’s so personal.”

So why not share it?

On the cover of the April issue of Under the Gum Tree are four words: “Tell stories without shame.” I’ve always done so in fiction; why not in my personal life?

Under the Gum Tree editor Janna Marlies Maron puts it this way: “Fear is the very reason that I publish this magazine. Writing and sharing true stories helps us face the fears we have about who we are. We fear that others will judge us and not accept us—and our stories, our past experiences, are a huge part of that. But by sharing our stories we defy that fear and challenge it by seeing what really happens when we reveal a part of ourselves.” 

I give you the opening of “You Were Here,” followed by a link where you can buy your own copy of the magazine.

YOU WERE HERE

by Sara Dobie Bauer

The Bedroom

Papa died here. He got to die in his own home on a Saturday night while I was far away in Phoenix, just waiting for the call. He died in his own bed with his children around him.

When I was little, we all used to cram into that bed: Papa, Grandma, my brother, and me. I sported an awkward bowl cut then and glasses that made me look like a bug. Matt and I were boney little kids; it’s a wonder we didn’t bruise the grandparents, who were soft and cuddly before old age stole their weight and shrank their presence.

Matt and I slept upstairs when we stayed with Papa and Grandma, and I was scared up there because of the attic—that long, dark space entered via a midget-sized door ten feet from my creaky bed. Papa and Grandma’s bedroom was where I went when I got scared. I would knock on the door, and Grandma would walk me back upstairs and stay with me until I fell asleep.

If there were a midget in the attic, he never got me because Grandma was there.

Now, their bedroom is empty. The big picture of “Schwindig” nineteen-seventy-something is gone. It was a picture of my grandparents with their brothers, sisters, and cousins, all in Hawaii, burnt to a crisp, most of the men smoking cigarettes and sporting gold chains that tangled in abundant chest hair.

The dresser is bare, but inside the drawers, you still find socks, underwear, jewelry. My grandfather’s suits are still in the closet. I try one on and find it doesn’t fit. Too tight in the shoulders. It’s the jacket he wore to my wedding: the last earthly trip Papa ever made. Even though he was in a wheelchair, he found the energy to dance with me: “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra.

Papa’s hats don’t fit either. I apparently have a large head. It smells vaguely of Papa’s cologne in the bedroom as if he’s still in here somewhere, hiding behind his suits.

Only now do I cry.

***

The Front Door

The house on Walnut Street in Perrysburg, Ohio, looks like it’s made of gingerbread. Hidden behind oak trees near downtown Perrysburg, it’s surrounded by houses that look younger, newer, due to siding and modern touches like in-ground swimming pools.

It is brick, and has high, pointed rooftops. Huge front windows look out over the street, almost hidden now by an overbearing pine that stands like a sentinel near the recently paved driveway. When I was a teenager learning to wear heels, the gravel was murderous. Maybe I owe my adult high-heel dexterity to my grandparents’ driveway.

There are plastic pink flamingos along the front walk, leading to the heavy, black front door. My Uncle Barney had a passion for flamingos that, for some reason, transferred to the rest of the family. The house looks like a house you’d see in a movie—the one where the happy family reconvenes for a funeral and each learns something meaningful. There would be a Celine Dion song on the soundtrack.

At Christmas, the house was lit from head to toe. Snow melted around fat, old-fashioned colored bulbs, framing them. The crooked Christmas tree glistened in the big front window. Then, you walked in the front door.

Today, there is no sound of TV from the back room, where my grandparents obsessively watched tennis and game shows, but the house smells the same: like something old and yet not of decay. It’s a comforting smell, like the blankie you had as a kid that you refuse to wash.

To read the rest of my fearless family narrative (and get to know the rest of the house on Walnut Street), buy the April edition of Under the Gum Tree in print or digital format HERE. 

Christmas-Cookies

"Dark Beauty" by Scott Miller.

“Dark Beauty” by Scott Miller.

I used to be the chubby girl. Not in the obvious way but in a way that made me think, No matter how much you work out, you’re just big-boned. Not to mention large-breasted. In college, I never felt like the “pretty one,” probably because my close knit group of gal pals were all absolutely stunning. I was the wild one. I was the funny one. Pretty? My roommates were pretty; I wooed via wit.

Guys didn’t seem to mind my fuller figure. I didn’t mind it … most of the time. Then, sometimes, I just felt big and ugly.

Through all this, I had a friend who was an amateur photographer. Janine was not only my roommate, post-college, but she was another one of the “pretty girls.” Nay, she was smoking hot; yet, she wanted to take pictures of me.

Me? Why?

I agreed because I trusted her, and I liked the photos she took, even though I still felt kind of nervous about how I looked and the occasional appearance, on film, of my lazy eye. When I moved to Charleston, I didn’t think about photography anymore. I thought about beer, beaches, and boys and mastered all three, thank you.

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

I didn’t think about having my photo taken again until I moved to Phoenix with Jake and only did so as a boudoir shoot for his eyes only. Then, something weird happened in Phoenix. I lost thirty pounds. I wasn’t big-boned after all. I had become a “skinny bitch.”

One day, I received one of the funniest compliments EVER from a dear friend of mine. She said: “You could be a model. Or a hooker. At Cannes. I hear they have expensive hookers at Cannes.”

My first official photo shoot in Phoenix was in character as Fight Club‘s Marla Singer with the super talented Chris Loomis. And for the first time in my life, I looked at those photos and thought, “Huh. I look pretty good!”

I’ve since gone on to do many, many photo shoots, some completely nude. I’ve become utterly fearless about my body, and I question: Why? Is it simply because I’m “skinny?” That would be the easy answer, wouldn’t it? That would be the stereotypical, media-embraced answer. But I don’t think me being skinny has anything to do with it.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

For the first time in my life, I have a man who loves me, supports me, and tells me I’m beautiful all the time. This may be controversial and old-fashioned. I understand we are supposed to love ourselves. We don’t need a man to give us self worth … but it doesn’t hurt.

With Jake, I have grown to become more confident. Trust me, I never needed a man. Until I found a man I needed.

But I don’t do the photo shoots for Jake. I do photo shoots (and runway) because I think it’s fun. It’s fun putting on makeup, wearing crazy hair, and dressing up in costume. It’s fun playing a role and seeing how that role comes across on film.

Modeling has shown me that being skinny isn’t the “pretty” part. Certain poses aren’t exactly complimentary, let me tell you, but who cares if I look a little bloated one day? Who cares if my hair is a frizzy mess? And okay, yeah, I have a kind of strong, manly jaw, but with that camera looking at me, I feel beautiful.

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

I wish I had done this earlier, back when I considered myself the “chubby girl.” I wish I had more of a visual time line of where my body has been and where it is now … and eventually, where it’s going. I wish I could tell my younger self just how empowering it is to own the skin you’re in, no matter the shape or size. Marilyn Monroe sure as shit wasn’t a size two, and she’s considered the most beautiful woman in history.

So to all of you (the friends of mine who say they aren’t pretty enough to do a photo shoot, aren’t confident enough to walk the runway), YES YOU ARE. It’s a mental state; not a physical one. Think you’re beautiful, because damn it, you are.

I’m lucky to have Jake as a confidence booster, but I still believe a man is not a self confidence necessity. Single, married, pregnant, post-kids: do a photo shoot, just so when you’re seventy years old, you can look back, see where you’ve been, and know you’ve been beautiful. Always.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

tumblr_m6ded14qFC1qi3ei3o2_500

It’s no surprise to all of you that I love the BBC’s reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes. This is due in part to my obsession with British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, but the show really is brilliant. I’m shite at writing mysteries, but I love (love) watching them, so the brilliance of writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss is beyond me. It doesn’t hurt the show’s appeal when both leading men, Benedict and Martin Freeman, garner Emmys for their performances as the immortal Sherlock and Dr. Watson.

Okay, that said, there are so many jokes about how Sherlock and Watson are totally gay for each other. Although Watson just got married in season three, the show doesn’t do itself any favors. There are some pretty long, lingering stares shared between the leading men. Sherlock has no respect for personal space, so it occasionally looks like he’s about to kiss his best mate. And there was that whole awkward “boyfriend” conversation in episode one.

The fans have noticed, and Johnlock (the official term for Watson-Sherlock romance) is rampant in fan fiction and fan art … and most of it is definitely rated R with Watson almost always playing the top, which I guess makes sense since Benedict’s Sherlock is super pretty.

Enter Norway. Two comedic actors, Vidar Magnussen and Bjarte Tjøstheim, have caused quite the internet sensation with their take on the BBC series, and well, I’m enamored. From cell phone auto correct mistakes to “jump-and-kiss” moments, these guys have done their research, and their parodies are not to be missed. (They even mastered the BBC camera angles.)

I present, for your viewing pleasure, episode one, “Oklahomo.”

In case that wasn’t enough, “Mind Phallus.” (Not for underage consumption.)

And for one more laugh, “Missing Shoulder.” (My favorite one, with a shout out to Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr.)

Thank goodness someone spotted these actors’ resemblances to the real thing, because they certainly know how to make a girl laugh. Happy clueing for looks!

smoking

Every Thursday, Akashic Books presents Thursdaze: a writer’s fictional experience with marijuana, speed, heroin, cocaine, or any other drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized.

There are rules. Stories in this series must adhere to a 750-word limit. Plus, there’s an emphasis placed on stories that stylistically emulate the drug of choice, allowing readers to indulge risk-free.

It’s pretty easy to spot my vice: cigarettes. Today,Thursdaze presents my rhythmic short, “No Smoking.” Inhale … exhale …

No Smoking
by Sara Dobie Bauer

She wondered what his skin felt like. There was little of it to see, wrapped in all black, like a Bedouin woman in the desert. It was a nice suit but so much fabric. Layers. His neck and face had somehow escaped. He had fingers like long, unsharpened pencils.

“May I borrow one of those?”

“Will you give it back once you’ve finished?”

There weren’t many smokers. Smoking was passé, like opium. There were laws against it. No smoking inside. No smoking within twenty-five feet of this door. People never walked down sidewalks smoking for fear of offense.

“Why is it only bad guys smoke in films?”

“Or whores.”

He looked like neither. She’d seen him before, of course, dozens of times. The bigger the city, the smaller it felt. The smokers—bad guys, whores—were relegated to a side alley. There were a few folding chairs and a gate at the end to keep the party private. The night was warm. Her legs felt sticky and wet where they crossed. She regretted using lotion earlier. She feared at any moment she would slide off herself and into his trousers.

Read the rest of my homage to smoke at Akashic Books.

sara smoke

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